hard rock

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Def Leppard (2015 Japanese + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

Part Forty-Seven of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Def Leppard (2015 Sony Japan + Classic Rock fan pack edition)

As with anything these days, you often have to buy multiple copies to get “all the songs” (only for them to be reissued in a box set later on).  The Classic Rock “fan pack” edition of 2015’s Def Leppard has plenty of bonuses (which we’ll get into) including two exclusive versions of songs.  The Japanese CD has an exclusive demo.  Gotta catch ’em all.

Def Leppard are in a comfortable niche now and their self-titled 2015 album easily could have been another “ia” titled construction, next to Pyromania, Hysteria and Euphoria.  Hell even 1992’s Adrenalize was originally to be titled DementiaDef Leppard is another “ia” album, but it’s notably closer to matching the quality of Hysteria better than most of their records since.  Upon dropping the laser after a long period of neglected, the album comes to life.  The hooks are remembered, and stand the test of time.

“Let’s Go” pretends to be another re-write of “Sugar” before going into an unexpected lush pop chorus.  Not a “Sugar clone at all, but something new for Leppard combining their trademark sound with bubblegum.  The Classic Rock fan pack comes with a bonus single edit, shorter by a minute.  “Dangerous” is straight-up Leppard, like “Photograph” or “Promises” all over again.  This song smokes, just like the previous hits in the same mold.

Funky Queen-like bass isn’t far out of Def Leppard’s range.  “Man Enough” is kind of goofy and might have worked better with just about any other lyrics.  When the song gets going, it starts to bang.  This is the kind of song that will divide people:  some will think it’s a highlight, others will say it stinks.

An album highlight is the first ballad “We Belong”.  It’s a gentle song recalling the softer moments on Slang, but what makes it unique is that all five Def Leppard guys sing lead vocals for the first time.  Truly an outstanding track, made more special by the vocals.  Even a non-fan can appreciate the different textures the voices add.  Phil is gritty, Sav is smooth, and they all bring extra dimensions.  Classic rock’s bonus tracks include an alternate version with just Joe Elliot singing.  It’s interesting because his solo take is different from the other singers.

“Invincible” is a rare Rick Allen co-write, a blazer like Pyromania-era Leppard, without the screaming.  That’s the only difference.  “Invincible” is otherwise vintage-style, including a quintessential Phil Collen guitar solo.  Moving on to “Sea of Love”, this one stretches out melodically.  The guitar riff keeps it rooted in Def Leppard, but the intro and chorus are something else.

The first mis-step is the ballad “Energize” which sounds like a Euphoria reject, something that came out of a computer.  Thankfully “All Time High” does the real energizing.  Back to a Pyromania style of rock, and the solos is right out of the 80s.

“Battle of My Own” is more like acoustic Led Zeppelin.  Quite unlike Leppard’s early acoustic experiments in 1992.  The psychedelic vocals and Zeppish riffs really set it apart.  This is definitely something that could have followed Hysteria, and probably right up the charts.

A fun rocker steals the “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” riff and turns it into “Broke ‘N’ Brokenhearted”.  There might be a touch of Leppard’s recent country influence coming through on the chorus.  This seamlessly goes into “Forever Young” which, in the past, might have been left as a single B-side.  A good B-side admittedly.  “Last Dance” goes back to acoustic, this time for a ballad like “Two Steps Behind”.  Don’t forget “Two Steps Behind” was a B-side as well, and “Last Dance” would probably work well in that format.  Interesting, the Japanese CD’s bonus track is a demo version of “Last Dance” with Rick Savage, its writer, singing lead.  This is probably the best of the two versions because on a long album like this, additional lead singers help keep things interesting.

Two songs remain, both unusual.  “Wings of an Angel” uses the penultimate slot to deliver a dark, understated rock song.  Then “Blind Faith” goes Beatles, with strings, bluesy guitars, and the kitchen sink.  Totally a “Walrus” kind of song.  A good closer, albeit very different for this band.

Sometimes I like to think of Def Leppard albums in terms of pre and post-Hysteria.  To me, Adrenalize was not the followup that Hysteria deserved and I think Def Leppard knew that.  Adrenalize was more like a bonus disc, or a Reload to the original Load.  Because of the sad passing of Steve Clark, the band had to deliver and so they kept things safe.  But Leppard are an experimental band, and if they weren’t dealing with another series of hardships, I think they would have progressed beyond Hysteria.  They did on Slang, but by that time grunge had washed the slate clean and Def Leppard made their sound more alternative and more organic to adapt.  Slang was not the sequel that Hysteria would have got either.  Maybe Def Leppard is the closest we have to a proper followup.

4/5 stars

 

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (DVD and CD 1)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and Bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese import)
  45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
  46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)

Next:  Thanks for reading!

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – “Helen Wheels” from The Art of McCartney (2014)

Part Forty-Six of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – “Helen Wheels” and
JOE ELLIOTT – “Hi Hi Hi” from The Art of McCartney (2014 Arctic Poppy)

The Art of McCartney has to be one of the most anticipated yes lesser known tribute albums of the last two decades.  Anticipated because it promised new cover tunes by Kiss, Rick and Robin from Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Heart, Willie Nelson Paul Rodgers, and so many more.  For this review series we’ll be looking at two tracks:  one by Def Leppard, and one by Joe Elliott.

Paul McCartney needs no introduction.  If he does, then I ask you to read about a band called “The Beatles” before you read anything else here!

Produced by Ronan McHugh and Def Leppard, “Helen Wheels” is unmistakable Def Leppard.  The opening drum pattern certainly recalls Rick Allen’s work on “Rocket”.  Then it careens into pure pop rock delight!  This Wings single was released in 1974 and later included on some versions of Band on the Run.  Driving, fun, and while different from Def Leppard’s core sound, it’s ideal for them to cover.  The boys in the band aren’t bad singers y’know.

Joe’s solo cover is “Hi Hi Hi”, a standalone Wings single from 1972.  This is far more raw than the Leppard track.  Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums!  Joe’s vocals were recorded at his home studio while the backing tracks were recorded in Los Angeles and London.  Quite a production, but that’s the modern way of doing things.    One thing about Joe’s vocal:  he absolutely goes for it!  It’s like rough and ready Joe from 1980 has returned, but with the skill and experience of an older singer.  This is just a piano-boppin’ rock and roller.

Bravo to Joe and Def Leppard for coming up with some inspired covers.  Certainly more inspired than most of the Yeah! covers album.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

    1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
    2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
    3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
    4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
    5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
    6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
    7. Pyromania
    8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
    9. Hysteria
    10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
    11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
    12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
    13. Adrenalize
    14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
    15. Retro-Active
    16. Visualize
    17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
    18. Video Archive
    19. “Slang” CD single
    20. Slang
    21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
    22. Euphoria
    23. Rarities 2
    24. Rarities 3
    25. Rarities 4
    26. Cybernauts – Live
    27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
    28. X
    29. Best Of (UK)
    30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
    31. Yeah!
    32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
    33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
    34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
    35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
    36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
    37. B.Sides
    38. Yeah! II
    39. Yeah! Live
    40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
    41. iTunes Re-recordings
    42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
    43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
    44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
    45. Slang (2014 deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Next:

47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

RE-REVIEW: Def Leppard – Slang (2014 Deluxe edition bonus tracks)

Part Forty-Five of the Def Leppard Review Series

Original review:  Slang 2014 Deluxe Edition

DEF LEPPARD -DEF LEPPARD – Slang bonus tracks (Deluxe Edition, 2014 Bludgeon Riffola)

‘Twas a surprise when 1996’s Slang received the deluxe edition treatment in 2014.  The Viva! Hysteria celebrations were a success, and now another album was getting a little bit of attention, although the word “deluxe” really pushed it.  As the Heavy Metal Overlord once stated:

When it turned up I wis pure gutted. I thought the booklet had better be snazzy but it wisnae either. Just a wee hing where Joe tried tae mind stuff fae back in the day. Nae liner notes. Nae lyrics. Nuhin. Just some shite photies. My old copy had two discs, a slimmer case and lyrics. And some photies an aw! Gid wans. One of them oan a bus like they were aw goin doon the toon or somethin. How wis that no deluxe but this is deluxe? If they’d called it a “2CD Edition” that wid huv been awrite but they didnae. This is “deluxe”… cept it isnae. I don’t have a Scooby whit they’re playin at. Eejits.

Exactly.

Deluxe or not, the expanded edition of Slang gave new focus to the cult-status album.  Radically different versions of album tracks, unreleased songs, and works in progress offer a look at an album that really has never received its due credit for what it was.

The Slang deluxe featured a number of bonus tracks, and some iTunes exclusive bonus tracks as well.  Thankfully, the Def Leppard CD Collections box sets include some of these bonus tracks. Today we’ll mostly focus on the ones not included in previous reviews, from the Slang deluxe.

Here is a list of the iTunes bonus tracks, later included on one of the CD Collection box sets.  We’ve discussed these before in more detail.

1. “Truth?” (Demo Version) – Previously on “Work It Out” CD single.

2. “Work It Out” (Demo Version) – B-Side from “Work It Out” with Viv singing and completely different from the other versions on the Deluxe. Viv referred to it as his “Crowded House” version.

3. “When Saturday Comes” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

4. “Jimmy’s Theme” From the film When Saturday Comes and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

5. “Cause We Ended as Lovers” (Solo track by Phil)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

6. “Led Boots” (Solo track by Viv)  From the Jeff Beck tribute album Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle and “All I Want Is Everything” single.

There are also two iTunes exclusive bonus tracks that remain exclusive to iTunes.  We’ll get to those.

The Slang deluxe’s first bonus was track 12 on disc one, the buttery “Move With Me Slowly”, the original Japanese bonus track for Slang.  This is a beautifully recorded, raw, smooth, and sexy Def Leppard song.  An incredible song, as we have discussed on the CD Collection Vol. 2.  We’ll say it again:  should have been on the album.  We’ll add:  those guitar solos are so incredible.  Full of feel, organic sounding tone.  Some of the best guitar playing on a Def Leppard song.  Another good one is track 16, the acoustic “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, a B-side and Japanese bonus track to the Vault CD.  Another song that deserved a proper place on an album.  “Worlds Collide” is also on this set, a really heavy metal track, originally released on the B-side to “Goodbye” during the Euphoria era.  Heavy, but definitely B-side material.  We also have “Burn Out”.  Great little rocking groover, more like old Def Leppard than the final Slang album.  No loops, no electronic instrumentation, so acoustics.  Just chug, chug, chug and rock and roll.  Joe’s vocal is full of attitude.

Let’s go through all the remaining Slang bonus tracks and have a listen to a largely misunderstood album, as it might have been.

1. “All I Want Is Everything” (Demo) – iTunes only.  A unique version of the song, with the some of the lyrics intact and everything radically different.  The chorus has the final melody, but delivered as a more traditional rock shout.  The melancholy mood of the final version is taking shape, but there is no question that “All I Want Is Everything” was better in its final version.

2. “Turn to Dust” (Phil verse vocal version)  (Track 1, disc two.)  This version of the second Slang album track is similar to the final, though with Phil Collen singing the verses, with Joe on the chorus.  Phil’s raspier voice adds a different, laid back direction.  The backing track is not the final mix though the sitar and some of the effects are in place.  Collen fans will love it.

3. “Raise Your Love” (version of “Slang”)  (Track 2, disc two.)  Choppy rock guitars are the main feature here!  Joe’s opening rap is intact, but the song deviates from there.  The chorus is a very different refrain of Phil singing, “Baby raise your love!”  Cool track for sure, but the final song became something far more unique as we’ve seen.  If you wished “Slang” was a more rocking tune, then you better check out “Raise Your Love”.

4. “All I Want Is Everything” (1st draft) (Track 3, disc two.)  Somehow, the “1st draft” is more complete and closer to the album version than the “demo”.  Were the two versions mislabelled?  This sounds more like a demo, with the other being the first draft.  In fact this is so close to the final album mix, that you might be able to fool your friends.  The guitar solo is missing, as are the big vocal hooks that follow, which is the biggest clue.

5. “Work It Out” (1st draft) (Track 4, disc two.)  Like the above, this is very close to the final album version.  Very different from Vivian Campbell’s demo, one of the aforementioned iTunes bonus tracks.  Joe’s vocal is not the final take, but the backing track sounds almost ready.  The stuttering guitars and droning strings are all there.  You can hear, in the layers of guitar, the skeleton of Viv’s original idea.

6. “Breathe a Sigh” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 5, disc two.)  All the pieces are in the place but the atmosphere isn’t captured yet.  The final mix would nail that R&B crossed with Def Leppard vibe.

7. “Deliver Me” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 6, disc two.)  Again, very close to the final mark.  Just an earlier, less elaborate version of the final album mix.

8. “Black Train” (version of “Gift of Flesh”) (Track 7, disc two.)  The main riff is there.  The verse melodies are there.  The chorus is the major difference, with this one being a shouty affair.

9. “Blood Runs Cold” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 8, disc two.)  Of all the rough mixes, “Blood Runs Cold” is the most indistinguishable from the final track.  The chorus is the most different, with Phil prominently assisting Joe.

10. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1st draft) (Track 9, disc two.)  Has an almost Marillion-like sheen to the opening guitar textures.  These fade and the mix goes purely acoustic.  This excellent song was already in fantastic shape at this stage.  Could have been on the album as-is.

11. “Pearl of Euphoria” (Feb ’96 rough mix) (Track 10, disc two.)  The epic album closer from Slang, in an early mix.  Similar, but the final version sounds busier, which enhances it.  They made some different choices in the middle section of this mix, but the in-your-face guitar is quite delectable.

12. “All on Your Touch” (2012 revisit) (Track 11, disc two.)  A Slang-era track never properly finished until 2012.  Laid back, dark ballad.  Understated, with shades of “Love Bites” in the guitars, but with an explosive hard-edged chorus.  Awesome solo work on this song.

13. “Anger” (“Deliver Me” 1st draft) (Track 12, disc two.)   Different from the above “final mix” which was very close to the album.  This “first draft” has a different chorus:  “Anger, I’m feeling so much anger!”  It fails to deliver the intended punch, and so it is good they revised it and kept working on it.  They obviously knew the chorus was not the needed hook.

14. “Move On Up” (Vivian demo) (Track 13, disc two.)  Completely unreleased song, a Campbell demo.  Neat punchy riff, with a hint of Jimmy Page.  Vivian sings, and his vocal melody is melodic, different and enjoyable.  It’s too bad the guys didn’t take this song further.

15. “Gift of Flesh” (Phil vocal) (Track 14, disc two.)  Another treat for those who love the raspy voice of Phil Collen on lead vocals.  The backing track is not all the way there yet, but Phil’s vocal track provided the blueprint for the final album version.

16. “Move with Me Slowly” (1st draft) – iTunes only.  The buttery smooth “Move With Me Slowly” appears again, this time in a “first draft” version exclusive to iTunes.  Rougher, slightly rawer mix.  The outro goes out longer, lingering like flavours on your tune.

While it was nice to see Slang get a reissue with a wealth a bonus material, it was a shame the packaging didn’t quite rise to the occasion.  With two tracks remaining unreleased in physical form, and not all the material from the era available in a single place, it’s not too late to do a super deluxe.

4/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)
  44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)

Next:

46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 3 – Japanese bonus track)

Part Forty-Four of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 3 – Japanese bonus track) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

Finally we reach the end of this sprawling, generous collection of live Def Leppard.  As is often the case, the Japanese market included an exclusive CD bonus track.  This bonus track is only available on DVD in North America.  While that is enough for some, there are many Def Leppard aficionados out there (hello!) who obsessively collect formats like CD as well.  This one’s for you.

Def Leppard’s “Acoustic Medley” was a standalone iTunes single around the time of the Viva! Hysteria shows.  It was a surprise that they played it live at an acoustic session for fans, and then released that live version!  It’s a casual affair in a small room with audience seated on the floor.  Five ballads, all acoustic, and really well put together.  Seamless, almost. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” begins, with a total of four acoustic guitars – Joe and Sav both taking up the six strings.  Rick Allen on the shaker!  Onto “Now”, “When Love and Hate Collide”, “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad”, and “Two Steps Behind” (which the audience scream for).  All the best parts of each song, and all of “Two Steps Behind”, make up the medley.

As stated ad nauseum, Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom.  Great value for fans both casual and diehard.  They put a lot of work into sounding as vintage as possible.  Def Leppard pulled it off.  If you’re serious about this live set and serious about this band, check out the Japanese import CD.  It has completely different packaging and cover artwork, along with that elusive bonus live medley.  Now that’s a magical mysteria.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)
  43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 & bonus features)

Next:

45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9 (2022)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Patient Number 9 (2022 Epic)

It’s very easy to be cynical about any new Ozzy album since about Down To Earth and onwards.  Corporate constructions.  Special guest writers and performers. “Here Ozzy, sing these new songs we wrote for you.”  Prior to that, it felt like Ozzy had a band, and that band took different directions on each album.  Now Ozzy has Andrew Watt and a slate of big-namers.  It’s been this way a while.  This time the difference is, the process resulted in a pretty decent album.  Sure it’s still Watt at the helm, with special guests in big letters on the back cover and front stick.  Jeff Beck!  Eric Clapton!  Tony Iommi!  Zakk Wylde!  Of course without a real band, you don’t get that cohesive band sound, but what you do get ain’t bad indeed.

Each track (except for “Darkside Blues” which is either a new version or a new mix of the Japanese bonus track from Ordinary Man) has credits by Andrew Watt and professional songsmith Ali Tamposi.  She’s more known for Kelly Clarkson, Nickelback, and a slew of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus hits.  She also co-wrote most of Ordinary Man so there’s a formula at work here.  Other co-writers include Ryan Tedder, Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Robert Trujillo, Tony Iommi, Chris Chaney, and the late great Taylor Hawkins.

Ozzy falls into his comic horror persona a bit too much.  There was once a time when he was trying to shed that “crazy madman” image but he’s really leaned into it again for the last couple decades.  As such the album opens with silly “insane asylum” sound effects that only delay us getting to the good stuff.  The opening title track is over seven minutes long with that nonsense attached.  It’s also one of the poorer of the new songs, overly formulaic and modern with robotic hooks.  Jeff Beck’s unconventional and slippery solo work makes it worth a listen (Watt and Wylde play the rhythm and fills).

Things really get moving on track two, “Immortal” featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Duff on bass.  Good riffing and grooving going on here, and the first memorable chorus.  The Hawkins co-penned “Parasite” is another grooving highlight, featuring the Foo Fighter on drums.  The chorus is really solid and just moves like a ‘Vette on the highway.  That’s Zakk on lead guitar, but he’s instantly recognizable.  Former Ozzy bassist and currently Metallicer Rob Trujillo on bass.

What’s really amazing is that with the help of Tony Iommi, this hodge-podge of creators managed to write a seriously Sabbathy dirge called “No Escape From Now”.  You’d swear it’s Geezer Butler on bass, but it’s not.  It’s actually Watt.  It’s as Sabbathy, if not more so, than most of the 13 album.  It feels a bit “token”, like, “Oh hey Sabbath fans, here’s a song with the riffs and time changes that you like.”  Yet it’s one of the songs you’ll keep returning to, and probably for those reasons.  Of note, this is the only song without Andrew Watt on rhythm guitar.  It’s all Tony and only Tony which is the reason it feels heavy as a bloody brick.

In a throwback to Ozzmosis, “One of Those Days” with Eric Clapton really sounds a bit like “I Just Want You”.  Clapton really adds a touch of class.  One could imagine that the chorus will upset certain people with it’s refrain of “I don’t believe in Jesus”, but it is one hell of a chorus – pun intended.  Unfortunately the ballad that follows, “A Thousand Shades”, is a throwaway, aside from the brilliant Jeff Beck guitar solo.  One of the Hawkins co-penned tracks called “Mr. Darkness” takes a minute to get going, seemingly a song about fan letters that Ozzy once received.  It and the next two songs all feature Zakk Wylde on guitar.  Dull verses, but awesome chorus, with an awesome Sabbathy change towards the end.  The only dumb part is the silly ending where Ozzy speaks, “You don’t even know my name you asshole.”  Just…no.

“Nothing Feels Right” is another ballad, very Ozzmosis-y.  Decent song, good chorus, with all the production bells and whistles.  It really smokes during the solo section.  Another Sabbathy sounding riff emerges on “Evil Shuffle” and it really seems clear that Andrew Watt is trying to channel Geezer Butler’s bass playing on this album.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  Then it’s the much-hyped “Degradation Rules” with Tony Iommi, a song about masturbation, but not as good as the prior Iommi song.  The main hook here is Ozzy’s harmonica playing, a great throwback to “The Wizard”.

“Dead and Gone” is a deep cut highlight, with a latter-day Priest-like groove and lots of Zakk Wylde chunk.  An album highlight buried way in the back end.  Finally, “God Only Knows” is the last proper song, but unfortunately sort of a last gasp rather than a late highlight.  Kind of a ballad, with lush backing vocals, but not a “Road to Nowhere” kind of late album winner.

The outro music, “Darkside Blues”, appears to be a remix of the original version from Ordinary Man‘s Japanese release.  You can compare the waveforms below.  It’s a swampy track with more of Ozzy’s harmonica, just a coda to the album.

It’s pretty amazing at this stage of the game that Ozzy is still cranking out new music, but of course he has a huge support team behind him.  This time, the team produced an album better than the last one by a pretty fair margin.  They could have cut two tracks and made it a more engaging and concise listen.  It’s always a balancing act between giving the listener added value, or a streamlined experience.  A minor quibble at the end of the day.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Journey – Freedom (2022, Japanese bonus track)

JOURNEY – Freedom (2022 Japan, Ward Records)

Last month we gave Journey’s new album Freedom a glowing review.  We also did an excellent episode of Tim’s Vinyl Confessions to discuss the new album.  Though many were sceptical, Tim and I agreed more or less on the entire album.  We were both pleasantly surprised at its quality.  What was missing was the Japanese bonus 16th track.  Neither of us got a hold of it…until now.

The bonus track, exclusive to Japan, is a Jon Cain penned track called “Hard To Let It Go”.  If you are predicting the song is a ballad…you would be correct.

Spoiler:  Tim’s comment upon hearing “Hard To Let It Go” was “I can see why the Journey track didn’t make the album…so-so.”

Below you can read the full Journey Freedom review, now including bonus track.


What a…well, Journey…it has been!  First drummer Deen Castronovo was fired for…reasons we won’t get into.  Steve Smith was brought back to replace him, until both Smith and bassist Ross Valory were fired for attempted takeover of the band?  One way or another they ended up with Randy Jackson and Narada Michael Walden forming a lethal new rhythm section.  Also added was second keyboardist Jason Derlatka.  Now Deen is back and the album they created together, Freedom, is a special one compared to all the other post-Perry records.  Musically, Freedom is the strongest lineup since the classic era. With Narada on songwriting, there is a clear uptick in memorable material. 16 songs, and a more satisfying listen than the last three or four Journey studio albums.  Freedom actually feels like a three sided album, with five songs per side (plus the bonus track).  Listen with that in mind and see if you agree.

1. “Together We Run” – Classic 80s sound with a catchy Jon Cain piano opening. Awesome chorus. The “Woah Woah Woah” part is excellent.  Top it with a classic Schon solo. Arnel  Pineda sounds more soulful than before. 5/5

2. “Don’t Give Up On Us” – This is the “Separate Ways” ripoff.  Tell me you can’t hear it.  It’s slowed down a tad, but similar. Good tune though! 4/5

3. “Still Believe in Love” – The first ballad.  Narada’s really nailing that soul vibe on drums. Really soft/romantic but good. 4/5

4. “You Got the Best of Me” – Second single. Solid Journey style hard rocker. Narada nails this vibe too in a style reminiscent of Steve Smith. Chorus is stellar. 5/5

5. “Live to Love Again” – Jonathan Cain solo writing credit. A bit corny but not more so than other Journey ballads or Bon Jovi for that matter. 3/5

6. “The Way We Used To Be” – First single, so long ago! Darker, more ominous Journey, but absolutely killer. Takes a while to sink it. Works better on the album than as a single. Powerful, with great chorus. 5/5

7. “Come Away With Me” – Uncharacteristic hard rock groover. Randy Jackson for the win. Do I hear an homage to the first album on this one? Relentless song! 5/5

8. “After Glow” – Ballad #3. At least each ballad is different from one another, which is necessary on an album like this. Deen Castronovo on lead vocals. Very Steve Perry circa Trial By Fire. 3.5/5

9. “Let It Rain” – Woah! Completely different. Funk courtesy of Mr. Randy Jackson on bass. Solid unexpected funky groove going on here. Schon is mental! 4/5

10. “Holdin’ On” – Randy’s first co-write. Very much an homage to the first three progressive Journey albums. Time signature is nuts. 4/5

11. “All Day, All Night” – Randy Jackson is MVP for his bass pulse on this soulful, funky groove. Wicked song, An album highlight. Schon just punctuates the air with some chords while the bass carries the verses. Arnel in top voice on the screamin’ outro. 5/5

12. “Don’t Go” – Arnel’s first co-write. Like early 80’s Bon Jovi with an uplifting power chorus. 5/5

13. “United We Stand” – No quite a ballad, but a midtempo tune. Lyrics could be interpreted as about the division in the US. Not a highlight, just kinda sits there. 3/5

14. “Life Rolls On” – A song about aging and rolling with the changes. Begins as a ballad and transforms into a rocker. Nice organ on here by Jon Cain. 4/5

15. “Beautiful As You Are” – Album closing ballad/rocker. Lovely acoustic closer. Understated and perfect until it goes rocker at the end. Arnel in top voice hitting the high notes. Homage to classic Journey at the end – “Anytime”? Walden kicking absolutely ass on the outro. 5/5

16. “Hard To Let It Go” – Ballads can work very well as bonus tracks; an added “coda” to a track listing.  “Hard To Let It Go” takes a few listens to like.  If it were in the main tracklist, it would fade into the background in the wake of better songs.  Slow, deliberate, with an excellent speedy bluesy solo by Neal.  (Steve Perry did call Neal Schon one of the best blues players in the world on the Captured live album.)  Really though, the song is B-side quality compared to the rest of Freedom.  It stands out a little more thanks to its positioning as the last song. 3/5

Freedom is the first Journey since Trial By Fire that really intrigues you enough to go in for multiple listens.  This lineup has it all and though health issues have gotten in they way of Randy and Narada touring, the album is a moment frozen in time when Journey had these two awesome veterans in the engine room.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features)

Part Forty-Three of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 2 – CD 2 & bonus features) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

When Def Leppard rocked Vegas, they rocked it with far more than just a faithful live reproduction of the Hysteria album.  They also “opened” for themselves as “Ded Flatbird”, and treated the diehards to a set of 15 deep cuts and lesser hits.  For many, this is in fact the superior part of the show.  Indeed, Leppard really pulled some surprises out of the bag, finally satisfying a number of fans who perennially complained, “Why don’t they play ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’?”  With a wink and a smile, they did.  They performed two completely different sets as Ded Flatbird, on March 29 and March 30 2013.

Beginning with the March 29 set, the unlisted intro is a bit of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which is not present on the CD, only the DVD.  Then it’s onto the first shocker of the night, and probably the biggest:  non-album B-side “Good Morning Freedom”, from the single “Hello America“.  Straight-ahead riff rock.  It sounds surprisingly at home with the current version of Leppard.  Phil rips a solo and Rick Allen can’t wipe the smile off his face.  For the occasion of opening for himself, Phil Collen wears a shirt.  (Appropriate for an “opening act”, the backdrop is a simple union jack flag, hiding the big screens that would come out for the main set.)

As soon as “Good Morning Freedom” has struck its final chord, and standing in front of a stack of EVH amps, Phil rips into the delicious “Wasted” single.  This song from the first album is the one fans have been begging for, for years.  Joe’s voice is lower and rougher, and perhaps even more effective.  The song is still lethal!  That riff could be the most devastating one in their entire catalogue.

From Pyromania, “Stagefright” is another welcome inclusion.  Joe struggles with the challenging screamin’ vocals but he does the job.  He doesn’t cheat the notes.  This is the Leppard that fans have been wanting to see live all this time.  Then another shock:  from High ‘n’ Dry it’s “Mirror Mirror”!  Joe introduces Ded Flatbird as the best Def Leppard cover band in the world, and he must be right.  The tackle this, one of early Leppard’s sharpest and most melodically riffy songs, with ease.

Joe claims his name is “Booty Ruben” as they kick into the Sweet cover “Action”.  There are several official live versions out there.  This is one of ’em.  Not a song necessary for anyone to need another live version of, but once again Rick Allen can’t seem to stop smiling.  Back to the oldies, it’s another surprise with the early single “Rock Brigade”.  Perhaps by adopting the alternate identity of Booty Ruben (who swears Joe Elliott is a nice guy!), Joe is able to sing these old lyrics from a lifetime ago without feeling too silly.  He sounds awesome on the On Through the Night material.  Their music hadn’t got really screamy yet and Joe rocks it with ease.

Another surprise comes next, albeit a more recent one.  From their last album, Mirror Ball, is the rarely played “Undefeated”.  Though not one of their most outstanding songs, even the generic “Undefeated” deserves to be heard live at least once.  This is to date the only live version you can buy.  “Promises” from Euphoria is the last song of this set, and it sounds really great live with rich backing vocals.

The March 30 Ded Flatbird set brings us another set of delight.  After “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, they go right into “On Through the Night” from High ‘n’ Dry.  A bit “Achilles Last Stand”, isn’t it?  Screamin’ Joe manages well.

The surprising “Slang” from 1996 introduces modern beats.  It sounds good live, if a bit under-energetic.  Sounds like it’s just a little shy of full concert electricity.  But that’s OK.  If energy is what you need, then Leppard come at you with both barrels for the remainder of the set:  it’s all of side one of High ‘n’ Dry, in sequence.  “That ain’t good enough?” asks Joe/Booty.  No, no, it’s plenty good, this is what we have been asking for all this time!

“Let It Go” powers the show forward.  Amazing how close they nail it considering the Def Leppard of today has two different guitar players than the band of 1981.  Yet “Let It Go” is the triumph you want it to be.  “Another Hit and Run” is pure smoke.  Full speed ahead, Screamin’ Joe givin’ it all he’s got, and Viv and Phil ripping the solos while Rick and Rick keep blasting it forward.  “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night)” brings the tempo down but the temperature up.  What a riff, and what a fist pumper.

The closing pair of “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Switch 625” are a thrilling way to end this set.  Like a true guitar duo, Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen walk together to the ramp protruding from the front of the stage, and play “Switch 625” united.  It’s beautiful.  Not to be left out, Ricks Allen and Savage then get a bass/drum outro together.

The DVD has a few more extras to discuss.  There’s a brief and somewhat pointless photo gallery, to the tune of “Animal” live.  None of the photos are on screen long enough to really study.  A better bonus is the “Acoustic Medley”, which is on the DVD but not on CD, except in Japan where it was included as the bonus track.  We’ll discuss this awesome bonus next time.

Viva! Hysteria is an excellent package from top to bottom.  The band were fearless, playing material that they have shied away from for years.  Two CDs, one DVD, and a total of 30 tracks.  Leppard worked hard to get these songs into shape live, and Joe in particular had a lot of challenging material to sing.  They pulled it off, with flying colours, proving that Def Leppard are just as good as they ever were.

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings
  42. Viva! Hysteria (CD 1 & DVD)

Next:

44. Viva! Hysteria (Japanese bonus track)
45. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
46. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
47. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)

#1013: “Joey” – The Joey Tempest Conspiracy, 7 Years Later

RECORD STORE TALES #1013: “Joey” – The Joey Tempest Conspiracy, 7 Years Later

I think with the distance of seven years, we can finally put the Joey Tempest Conspiracy Theory to bed.  “What conspiracy,” you ask?  It all started in March of 2015 when a writer friend of mine, Tommy Morais, contributed an excellent review of the Europe album, War of Kings.  He rated it 4/5 stars, and said “I praise Europe for giving us a true great hard rock record in 2015”.  You’d think there was nothing controversial about Tommy’s review, but on June 13 of that year…everything changed.

A reader going by the name “Carrieanne” dropped a massive, monolithic comment one morning, explaining that Joey Tempest was no longer in fact Joey Tempest.  He had been replaced by a doppleganger.  A satanic one at that.  According to Carrieanne, “since the middle of 1989, the real Joey Tempest is not in this band, and Joey was truly the only one who has made this group huge with his talents, awesomeness and uniqueness!! And since 26 years, there’s such a horrible imposter and liar in this ‘group’, that’s not the real Joey Tempest!!”

“The real Joey Tempest had to leave the group because of this horrible liar!! It’s so obvious and so clear to see that it’s just someone different (unless you’re blind and deaf, like bunch of ignorants [sic]).”  On and on it goes, a massive diatribe praising Joey, attacking the fans who enabled the replacement’s acceptance, and of course, religious weirdness.  “You are worshipping the devil!!!” said Carrieanne.    But all is not lost.  The real Joey, one day, will come back.  There’s a really messianic angle to this whole comment.  Carrieanne ties the lyrics to “Danger on the Track” and “The Final Countdown” to a prophecy of this great replacement, like biblical verse.

“Are you on drugs?” asked Jompa Wilmenius, of E-Tainment News.  Reader Derek commented, “I can see you made the mistake of spilling meth into your coffee this morning champ.”

You can’t help but see similarities to conspiracy theories today.  I’m reminded of Romana Didulo, a woman who claims to be the “Queen of Canada”.  Canada already has a monarch and his name is Charles III, but I digress.  Tens of thousands of followers legitimately believe Didulo to be the legitimate Queen of Canada, as she tours the country in a beat up RV and feeds her followers tins of sardines.  And just like with Queen Romana, acolytes of the weird soon emerged to talk about Joey Tempest.  Things got even weirder.

Admittedly, this next part is kind of my fault.  With co-writer 1537, we cooked up a parody review of War of Kings, playing up the whole replacement angle.  For example, we wrote:  “Just look at the songs here!  ‘Children of the Night’.  The real Joey would never have written a song about ‘children of the night’,  ‘California 405’ is the highway that O.J. Simpson was chased down – a definite clue that there was something more going on here than meets the eye!  Why would Europe specifically reference that notorious highway unless they were implying some sort of wrongdoing behind the scenes?”

We guffawed and high-fived and hoped Carrieanne would drop another bizarre comment.  That is not exactly what happened.

While everyone else seemed to get the joke, someone named Doreen, who typed completely in capslock, said:  “I know Joey Tempest, and can I assure you that this is completely and utterly ludicrous.

We laughed some more, as one person clearly did not get the joke.  We thought it was pretty obvious.  With lines such as “Joey would NEVER let his hair go flat like that, wake up people,” I really did think it was an obvious joke post.

We mocked Doreen a bit, but then shortly after, a new player entered the field.  Miranda, claiming to be Joey’s wife, also did not get the joke.  “Must post fast since I’m sure the guys in white coats [are] coming for ya,” she said.  Miranda claimed to have Joey Tempest’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, childrens’ birth certificates, and a DNA report.  (I’m not sure what good a DNA report will do us.)

I followed Miranda to her YouTube channel, where she goes by the name “TheMirandaTempest”.  On this page, she has poorly dubbed her vocals onto classic Europe ballads, to create fake “duets” with her “husband” Joey.  Joey’s wife, incidentally, was also publicly known to be Lisa Worthington, not somebody named Miranda.  So now, we had two different delusions.  We had Carrieanne who said Joey Tempest was replaced by a satanic doppleganger in some bizarre conspiracy.  Now we also had Miranda, who was posing as Joey’s wife online.  And things would get even weirder still.

We know now that there was at least one Facebook page posing as Joey Tempest at that time.  Imposters, of the online variety, were of actual concern.  You can see why as we go on.

As Miranda’s comment was thoroughly mocked by readers, others came to her defence.  Doreen claimed again she knew the real Joey Tempest, but I think the person she knew was probably that fake Joey on Facebook.  Once she realized that several commenters were trying to explain the joke to her, she became angry.  She did not find it funny.  Neither did Joey Tempest, or his wife, she claimed.

Ironically, I had heard from Jompa Wilmenius that the real John Levén of Europe did find it funny.

Soon, Doreen’s partner Billy Low entered the fray.

“Joakim Larsson [Joey’s real name] and his wife are personal friends of mine. They are also personal friends of my partner. We ask him to do cover versions of songs for us, which he does. We also met him recently. A fake? Plastic surgery? Don’t make me laugh! Are you one of those who is going to write a book about this, hoping to make money? If so, forget that idea. Anyone with even a shred of common sense would know that what you are claiming is pure fabrication. If l wasn’t so furious about this, l can assure you that l would laugh my head off!”

They met him recently.  They. Met. Him. Recently.  Whooboy.  His wife Miranda…”You read what Joey’s wife has said on here,” said Billy Low.  The person claiming to be his wife, who is not his wife, because his wife was Lisa Worthington, you mean.

It’s really easy to understand how the Queen of Canada has followers when you see stuff like this.  She’s told her followers not to pay their bills, as Canada is illegitimate.  She is the Queen, and she says don’t pay your bills.  So these Canadians — homeowners! — are having their electricity turned off.  This is happening as we speak.  And they believe in their Queen even harder.

The very active comments section rolled on, with one comparing the situation to Matthew Trippe who claimed to be Nikki Sixx at one point.

I later received a threat on Facebook from Billy Low, because I misgendered him as a woman.  I didn’t know.  I just assumed it was a group of Joey fangirls.  When he said Doreen was his “partner” that didn’t clear it up.  The best part about this is that it drew out someone actually claiming to be Joey Tempest.  Posted Joey:  “The ‘real’ Joey Tempest is alive and well and still the same person,but even Rockstars have their secrets!!!!!!!!

From the comments’ IP addresses, I learned the following.  Billy and Doreen didn’t even live on the same continent as Miranda, so I’m not sure how they are close personal friends.  Carrieann was in Poland, and had the same IP address as another commenter “Someone X”.  It was all so very strange.

Strange, yet in the context of what we see in the world today, pretty tame stuff.  Nobody’s losing their house because they think Joey was replaced by a satanic lookalike, or because they pose as Joey’s wife online.  As least, we hope they don’t.

Billy Low accused me of making the story up to write a book and make money.  While that was certainly untrue, I admittedly did milk the posts for hits as much as I could.  They were very popular!  One or more of the Joey Tempest posts tended to stay in the top 10 for hits, for a long time.  I won’t apologize for that.  Entertaining the masses can be a thankless job.  I probably earned enough in advertizing dollars from the Joey posts to buy a few coffees.  Sue me, Billy!

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Des Moines 11.29.1977 (2022)

Off the Soundboard – Des Moines November 29 1977 (2022 Universal)

We are now at the fourth Off the Soundboard series release from Kiss, and this is the most hyped yet.  It’s the second original lineup release in the series, but the first from the classic era.  This time we travel back with Ace, Peter, Gene and Paul to the Alive II tour.  Arguably the pinnacle before things began to slowly crumble, this Alive II show is unsurprisingly loaded with Kiss firepower.  However, with only one CD, it’s the shortest in the series so far.  It does appear to include everything they played that night.

Opening with the brand new “I Stole Your Love”, Kiss truly were on fire.  Playing fast, tight and enthused, this is the Kiss of legend, the Kiss we have heard stories of!  Unaltered Kiss live in their prime!  The sound is, as expected, bootleggy, but pretty solid considering it’s 45 years old.  Paul’s vocals are so good they can bring a tear to your eye, remembering the Starchild when he was bulletproof.

“King of the Night Time World”, still second in the set, benefits from Peter Criss’ trademark pitter-patter.  Ace is a bit shrill at the beginning, but it’s 1977 technology.  Star Wars was brand new and the Space Ace was in his element.  He always harmonized well with Paul, which he does on “King”.  Paul then invites the girls to meet ’em in the “Ladies Room”, which means it’s Gene’s turn to sing.  Gene messed up some lyrics:  “You say you like to play, well, yes you play with me anyway.”  Or something like that.  Sounds like his bassline is also off.  Doesn’t matter, in fact that makes it even more cool.  A snapshot of a moment in time.  It’s all more of less buried in the glorious noise they call live rock and roll.  The crowd certainly didn’t care.

Paul tells them that Kiss had a good feelin’ about comin’ back to Iowa.  Temperature’s rising, so they gotta call out the “Firehouse”!  A lot faster than album and more like Kiss Alive!, this version of “Firehouse” is incendiary for all its energy and flaws.  The only misfire is Paul’s intro to “Love Gun” itself.  He’s certainly done better.  “When it comes to shootin’, we ain’t gonna miss!”  You just did, Paul!  Fortunately the song is just as kicking as ever, with Paul absolutely roaring.  This is the Kiss I remember growing up with.  Unstoppable energy.  The power remains high on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll”.  In a quaint blast from the past, Paul wants to see some lights in the crowd, some matches!  This is a song that always sounds best with Ace Frehley on lead guitar, and those who love the Spaceman will appreciate his fearless fretwork and signature technique all over it.

A chunky “Makin’ Love” is a set highlight, all riff and bass with Paul audibly jumping around haphazardly.  Peter is awesome on this.  “Christine Sixteen” is a bit clunky and awkward, as is Paul’s intro.  The less said the better.  “Christine Sixteen” falls into place on the chorus.  Their vocals here are an excellent example of Kiss’ ability to actually sing.  Then the moment you have been waiting for:  Paul says they got a surprise, and Ace Frehley’s gonna do “Shock Me”.  This version of “Shock Me” is up there with the better ones and of course Ace gets his big solo at the end.  It’s not just the Alive II solo, it’s a different beast and by the middle, Ace gets his Les Paul roaring.

The gentle intro of “I Want You” is just a feint, we all know that the song absolutely slams.  Ace’s guitar stings on the verses, and he gets to take an extra solo at the end just before Paul goes into his “I waaaa-aaa-aaaant!” tease with the crowd.  Then he queries whether everybody’s ready to take their medicine?  It’s time to call out “Dr. Love” and Gene is loving it.  “Shout It Out Loud” follows, at a fast tempo similar to its Alive II rendition.  The vocals are better though; you can really hear Peter Criss in the back.  His drumwork is manic too.  Great rendition of “Shout It Out Loud” and one of the best on CD.

Gene’s bass solo precedes “God of Thunder”.  It’s noise; just bass through a digital processor. Skippable noise.  “God of Thunder” itself is much better, containing a Gene/Peter groove that doesn’t always fall right into the pocket like this one does.  Then the Catman gets his drum solo, which is better and longer than the Alive II rendition.  (Gene’s vocals are also better, way more aggressive.)

“Rock and Roll all Nite” is the last song of the main set, the rock and roll national anthem according to Paul.  Like many of the songs, it’s faster too.  Very cool to hear both Ace and Peter on backing vocals quite clearly.  The Spaceman’s solo is sloppy stuttery greatness, and it’s hard not to enjoy this song that we already have live in dozens of incarnations.

Onto the encores:  “Detroit”, of course “Beth”, and the finale “Black Diamond”.  “Detroit” opens with a mistake and Kiss quickly recover, driving the thing into oncoming traffic with a reckless devil-may-care attitude.  By this point in the show, Kiss are playing on adrenaline and missing some of the parts.  Which is half the thrill.  As for “Beth”:  it’s “Beth”.  No more no less, though there is a lot of tape noise.  Peter’s vocals are so-so.  He struggles when he has to be tender, but he blasts on “Black Diamond”, which oddly opens with full band introductions which you rarely hear at a Kiss concert.  Paul gets a spotlight moment to play around with the “Black Diamond” intro on guitar before he starts singing.  Pound for pound, this is one of the best versions of “Black Diamond” by the original lineup out there.  From the vocals to the Ace soloing, to the explosive outro, this is one of the best renditions hands down.

Now that the vaults have been opened and we’re getting classic shows from the original lineup, the sky’s the limit what could come next.  This is the best one so far.  Let’s hope for an Eric Carr show soon.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 1 – DVD & CD 1)

Part Forty-Two of the Def Leppard Review Series

DEF LEPPARD – Viva! Hysteria – Live at the Joint, Las Vegas (Part 1 – DVD & CD 1) (2013 Bludgeon Riffola)

In the long history of Def Leppard, one of the greatest things they did was go to Vegas and play all of Hysteria live in sequence.  Joe Elliott worked hard on getting his voice in shape to sing those old songs from 25 years before.  Hysteria was an album where every track was meant to be a potential single.  It’s really the most logical of any record, short of a concept album, to play live in sequence.

This review focuses on Disc 1, the Hysteria set.  The next review will cover Disc 2 and the “Ded Flatbird” set of rare tracks.

You already know Hysteria (or at least you better since we have reviewed it here three separate times).  You know every song is great (with the possible exception of “Excitable”) and you know how important this album was, and still is.  In the opening DVD intro, Joe stresses the importance of writing great songs.*  Hopefully you know every one by heart and can hear the differences.  Viva la difference!

Shirtless Phil Collen opens on a rising platform, playing the opening signature to “Women”.  The DVD looks fantastic, sharp and with great angles.  Rick Allen’s Hysteria kick drum lights up when he hits it.  And check out Joe’s cool Hysteria-striped mic stand.  The recording is also excellent with lots of separation between the guitars.  Dig Rick Allen’s union jack headphones, and check out Joe nailing that first scream before the solo.

“Rocket” has some impressive backing vocals.  The backdrop changes to a wall of TV sets, like the old music video.  The guitars slightly deviate from the album blueprint but only just.  Onto “Animal”, a reliable toe-tapper.  The pace changes with the first ballad “Love Bites” but it’s a natural place to slow it down.  Phil takes some different roads with his guitar parts, adding some new flavours.  The camera lets us see all of Rick Savage’s pedal work too, normally hidden by the stage monitors.  Vivian Campbell does a wonderful job of the classic Steve Clark guitar solo.

 

“Sugar” goes next, always a bit goofy live (if not in the studio).  It’s still an undeniable anthem and the smiles in the audience tell the story.  The backing vocals can be dicey but they are solid as a rock here, with Viv and Shirtless Phil doing the heavy lifting.  Viv takes the spotlight for the “Armageddon It” intro and we’re already halfway through.  There are times in the solo when the Irish axeman just bursts into grins at the Vegas experience.

At this point the lights go out, and old video footage from In the Round: In Your Face goes up on the screens.  It’s a Steve Clark moment, as “Gods of War” was one of his signature songs.  Steve’s unique intro plays before the band comes back live.  It’s almost seamless, as if Clark was there for a brief moment.  Joe Elliott really delivers on this song.

“Don’t Shoot Shotgun” is surprisingly fun, with live vocals instead of the layered and sequenced album counterparts.  Now that we’re on side two of Hysteria, Viv has shed his jacket and changed his colour palette from blue to red.  It must be said, the Irishman does an impeccable job of paying tribute to Steve Clark’s solos.

On the demanding “Run Riot”, Joe does the best he can with his voice at his age, but this is the first point of the show where it’s really noticeable.  Though he’s hitting the notes, the depth of grit and power can’t be matched.  And that’s fine.  That’s not a criticism, just an observation for the purposes of this review.

“Hysteria” is the centerpiece.  Majestic; magical, mysteria!  This version is as good as any other live version.  They always do it well.  But “Excitable” might the surprise.  Is it better live, stripped of the samples and loopiness?  It may well be.  It’s certainly harder.  Screamin’ Joe absolutely nails every high on this one.

Hard to believe we’re already there, but it’s the Hysteria album closer, “Love and Affection”.  Always one of those deep cuts that should have been a commercial single, “Love and Affection” rules.  Vocally, it too is very demanding and so the album version cannot quite be matched.  Close, though!  Very close.

Joe Elliott does not get enough credit.  As a singer, a songwriter, and just awesome human.  He does not get enough credit.

Encore?  Of course!  “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”; two essential songs from Pyromania.  They need to be there.  So there they are.  For deeper cuts, we’ll have to wait until Disc 2, the “Ded Flatbird” set (which is Def Leppard opening for themselves with a set of rarities).  As for the Viva! Hysteria portion of the package, it’s a completely satisfying disc.

As an unlisted extra, the end credits are to the tune of the 2013 re-recording of “Hysteria”.  A physical release, albeit DVD and not CD.

5/5 stars

 

* Some of this footage is recycled from the Visualize DVD, including Steve Clark interview material.

 

 

 

5/5 stars

Previous:  

  1. The Early Years Disc One – On Through the Night 
  2. The Early Years Disc Two – High N’ Dry
  3. The Early Years Disc Three – When The Walls Came Tumbling Down: Live at the New Theater Oxford – 1980
  4. The Early Years Disc Four – Too Many Jitterbugs – EP, singles & unreleased
  5. The Early Years Disc 5 – Raw – Early BBC Recordings 
  6. The Early Years 79-81 (Summary)
  7. Pyromania
  8. Pyromania Live – L.A. Forum, 11 September 1983
  9. Hysteria
  10. Soundtrack From the Video Historia – Record Store Tales
  11. In The Round In Your Face DVD
  12. “Let’s Get Rocked” – The Wait for Adrenalize – Record Store Tales
  13. Adrenalize
  14. Live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
  15. Retro-Active
  16. Visualize
  17. Vault: Def Leppard’s Greatest Hits / Limited Edition Live CD
  18. Video Archive
  19. “Slang” CD single
  20. Slang
  21. I Got A Bad Feeling About This: Euphoria – Record Store Tales
  22. Euphoria
  23. Rarities 2
  24. Rarities 3
  25. Rarities 4
  26. Cybernauts – Live
  27. Cybernauts – The Further Adventures of the Cybernauts (bonus disc)
  28. X
  29. Best Of (UK)
  30. Rock Of Ages: The Definitive Collection
  31. Yeah!
  32. Yeah! Bonus CD With Backstage Interviews
  33. Yeah…Nah!  (Record Store Tales)
  34. Songs From the Sparkle Lounge
  35. “C’Mon C’Mon” (picture disc)
  36. Taylor Swift & Def Leppard – CMT Crossroads (DVD)
  37. B.Sides
  38. Yeah! II
  39. Yeah! Live
  40. Mirror Ball: Live & More (Japan bonus track)
  41. iTunes Re-recordings

Next:

43. Viva! Hysteria (CD 2 and DVD extras)
44. Slang (2014 Deluxe bonus tracks)
45. “Helen Wheels” (from The Art of McCartney)
46. Def Leppard (Deluxe and Japanese versions)